Tuesday, November 14, 2023

John Mills is “The October Man”

The October Man (1947) is a British mystery film directed by Roy Ward Baker and starring John Mills and Joan Greenwood. The screenplay was written by novelist Eric Ambler who also served as producer.

Jim Ackland (Mills) sustains a brain injury in a bus accident and a young girl in his care is killed. The guilt, combined with the brain injury has Jim filled with guilt. His guilt led him to attempt suicide twice while he was in recovery.

Once out of the hospital, Jim gets a job as a chemist and lives in a boarding house with an assortment of interesting characters, to say the least. He meets a young woman, Jenny Carden (Joan Greenwood) the sister of a work colleague, and the relationship becomes serious.

One of the rooming house residents, Molly Newman (Kay Walsh) asks Jim if she can borrow 30 pounds, a considerable sum. Jim writes her a check and she is found murdered the next day.

Because of Jim’s hospitalization for a brain injury, he immediately becomes the prime suspect. Jenny tries to convince Jim that he couldn’t have murdered Molly, but Jim isn’t so sure. He wonders if he might have murdered her in some kind of trance.

Is Jim a murderer? Or is there another murderer out there who could murder again?

Roy Ward Baker (1916 – 2010) was an English film director. When Baker was 17, he worked in menial jobs in the British film industry. He rose through the ranks and was appointed assistant director to Alfred Hitchcock on The Lady Vanishes. He served in the Army during World War II, where one of his superiors was novelist Eric Ambler. Ambler gave Baker his first big break with The October Man (1947).

John Mills (1908 - 2005) was an English actor who made over 100 films in the United States and in Great Britain. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Ryan’s Daughter (1970). Mills worked on the stage in London in the Noel Coward revue Words and Music (1932). He made his film debut in the U.K. in 1932 and appeared with Ida Lupino in The Ghost Camera (1933). He had a supporting role in Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) starring Robert Donat. Mills starred as Pip in Great Expectations (1946) to great acclaim and popular box office success. Mills continued acting into the 2000s.

Joan Greenwood (1921 – 1987) was an English actress. She had a successful film and stage career in her native country. She may be most famous for her role as Sibella in Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949). Other films she starred in include The Man in the White Suit (1951), Stage Struck (1958) co-starring Henry Fonda, and Tom Jones (1963).

The October Man trivia

  • The little girl on the bus with Jim Ackland is Juliet Mills, John Mills’s real-life daughter.
  • This was the first feature-length movie by Roy Ward Baker who may be best known for directing A Night to Remember (1958).
  • Roy Ward Baker directed John Mill in six movies. This was the first.
  • Roy Ward Baker was the assistant director on Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938).
  • He directed several films in America including Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) starring Richard Widmark and Marilyn Monroe.

To watch the film on YouTube, click here.



Click here to join the discussion on November 20, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation with a link to join the discussion on Zoom.

Discussion questions

  1. What did you think of John Mill’s performance? Was he believable as a man who had doubts about his own sanity?
  2. When the murderer was revealed, were you surprised or did you guess who it was?
  3. If you were Jenny, would you have been convinced that Jim was innocent?
  4. As a first-time feature-length director, were you impressed with Baker’s skill?
  5. Did this film remind you of any others you’ve seen?
  6. Knowing that he worked with Hitchcock, do you see any similarities with the Master of Suspense?



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